When you think of Ireland, there are probably a few images that spring into your mind. I can almost guarantee there you’ll be imagining a little green leprechaun with a pot of gold walking along a rainbow (y’know, that’s just how it is), you’ve probably got an intense craving for a pint of Guinness (ahhh, I do love the ebony nectar), and your minds eye is probably overwhelmed by the amount of green happening in your brain right now. Yet, if you’re up to date on your Irish knowledge, you’ll know that I’ve missed one of the most important aspects of Ireland off my list. Why, it’s the Shamrock, of course! Nope, I’m not acting the maggot, here’s everything you need to know about the Irish Shamrock:

What is the Shamrock?

By definition, the shamrock is a ‘young sprig of clover’ – and that’s all it is, really. Essentially, this ol’ thing is just a baby plant that normally has three leaves, but occasionally has four or more leaves (you know it’s going to be a good day if you find a four-leafed clover). So what’s the craic? What’s all the fuss about? Well, the fuss all started way back when in the 5th-century, when we were all but mere specks in the universe of life.

The Shamrock and Saint Patrick

If you’re a true Irishman or woman, you’ll know there’s nothing better than celebrating St. Paddy’s Day. For most of Ireland, this is a day to have a knees up in the local pub (for the whole 24 hours), but of course there is some history to the day. Celebrating Saint Patrick (or Paddy, as we know him), this Saint has been associated with the shamrock for centuries. According to ancient artwork and depictions of Saint Patrick, there has been an incredible link between the two icons of Ireland. In fact, it’s believed that Saint Patrick used the Shamrock within his sermons. It’s believed that he used the sprig of clover to illustrate the Holy Trinity. With the three leaves, each leaf represented the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Symbol of Ireland

As Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, it’s no surprise that Saint Patrick’s botanical choices have since become the symbol of Ireland. Just as England have the rose, Wales has the daffodil and Scotland has the thistle, Ireland has the Shamrock. Yep, whether you like it or not (I love it) the Shamrock is here to stay. All of these symbols appear on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, so even if you don’t like the Shamrock, you can’t deny it’s kind of a big deal…

The Shamrock in the modern day

Nowadays, you cannot walk through the streets of Ireland without being overpowered by the plant-y goodness. Although this is primarily for the sake of visitors to the Green Isle, it’s fair to say that the Irish people feel an incredible sense of pride when they walk past a Shamrock on the pavement. As if that wasn’t enough, the Shamrock is also used for major Irish brands, such as Aer Lingus, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a Shamrock on top of your Guinness (if you’re really, really lucky).

The Shamrock is one of the most iconic symbols of Ireland, and it’s not hard to understand why. With its historical references, it’s impressive friends (a patron saint? Someone is doing well) and a majorly recognisable, yet simple look about it, the Shamrock is here to stay.